Three candidates, including one incumbent, are running for two seats on the Big Walnut Local Schools Board of Education. They are challengers Sherri Dorsch and Stephen Fujii, and incumbent Andrew Wecker.
Stepping down from the board is Mindy Meyer, who served two full terms (eight years total).
The Gazette asked each candidate to provide information about themselves. Their responses are shown in alphabetical order.
Sherri Dorsch: “My name is Sherri Dorsch. I am 44 years old and hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Accounting from Creighton University and an MBA from the University of Houston. I am a CPA and am employed as a tax manager for Maloney + Novotny, LLC. I am married to Aaron Dorsch and have three children: Alex, Avery, and Claire Siewert. We have lived in the district for over 13 years. I believe my financial background uniquely qualifies me for the district’s Board of Education and will aid the board in decision-making during the coming years as our school district is challenged with continued growth and the need to stretch resources while maintaining a high quality of education. I have previously held a board position – I was treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce from January 2016 through December 2018.
“For more than a decade I have been involved and dedicated to the Big Walnut school district and community. As a mom of three Big Walnut students, two at BWHS and one at BWI, I have had the pleasure of becoming involved in the schools in both classroom and extracurricular volunteer opportunities, as well as other volunteer roles in the community and church organizations. I currently serve as a member of the Big Walnut School Finance Committee. Additionally, for the past nine years, I have served as treasurer of the Community for Eagle Pride committee, supporting the successful passage of school levies and bond issues to insure the continued success of our schools. My passion for the district’s mission, as well as my belief that my financial background and experience would benefit the board, were driving factors in my candidacy.
“The major issue facing the Big Walnut Local School District is growth in the community. Changes to infrastructure are underway, but as our community continues to grow, the district will be tasked with finding ways to stretch resources while maintaining the quality education that Big Walnut has become known for.
“If elected, my financial background will help me work with the other board members and administrators to find the best approach to balance the financial burden on local taxpayers while continuing to drive the mission of the district. Additionally, I will work to collaborate with local leaders to insure that the district’s needs are being considered as they are faced with development opportunities. Lastly, I will communicate with teachers, administrators, parents, business owners, and other community members to encourage transparency and trust between the district and the community.”
For more information, visit: http://www.facebook.com/sherridorschforbigwalnutschoolboard/.
Stephen Fujii: A professional educator since 1999, he has a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Northern University (1996); was a Commissioned U.S. Army Officer (1996); and earned a master’s degree from The Ohio State University (2005).
“My wife, Jennifer and I, moved our family — daughter, Jillian (BWHS Class of 2021) and son, Samuel (BWHS Class of 2023) — to Galena, Ohio, in May 2009. I am 45 years old at the time of this election.
“Having served in a number of positions at nearly every level of education — teacher, assistant principal, building principal at BWMS and BWHS, central office administration and superintendent — I believe I am uniquely qualified to serve our community as a board member. As a senior director with Battelle for Kids, I have the incredible opportunity to work with districts in Ohio and nationally on issues of strategic planning and vision setting. The goal I share with each of these communities is to deliver on the power and promise of 21st century educational opportunities for every student.
“BW Local Schools is a special place. My decision to run alongside several very qualified candidates stems from my belief that my educational experience and unique perspective can help advance and position our district as a leader in commitment to local education.
“The biggest issue facing Big Walnut Local Schools is striking a balance between the excellent educational opportunities provided by the district while maintaining economic stability amid the unprecedented growth. It is vital that our community’s growth does not distract the district from its core mission of inspiring and guiding every student to reach his or her maximum potential. Providing a quality education in a safe, respectful, and healthy environment for students and staff is critical today. I have a track record of supporting educators’ efforts to personalize, engage, and grow young people to thrive in an economically complex and challenging world. We must face these challenges and support our educators in recognizing the unique gifts of every child.”
For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/StephenPFujiiForBigWalnutBoardOfEducation/.
Andrew Wecker: A resident of Sunbury since 2006, Wecker, 52, is a lawyer and has earned degrees from The Ohio State University College of Law (J.D., 1996) and Ohio University (B.S., 1989).
“My wife, Kendra, and I have five children, ages 12-22, with now two graduates in 2016 and 2017 studying at OSU, and at Big Walnut, a junior, an 8th grader and a 6th grader. Kendra works at the Ohio Division of Wildlife, where she has served as the Wildlife Diversity coordinator, the Information and Education Group administrator, and now as chief.
“We are members of Sunbury United Methodist Church and are active in the Kountry Kids 4-H Club with chicken, lamb and rabbit projects, youth sports, camping, boating, shooting, hunting and fishing.
“My experience, range, and record can continue making a difference for the better in Big Walnut, for all our stakeholders — students, staff and taxpayers. In the course of my two terms on the board, I have worked with superintendents and board members who have had to cope with fallout from both the Great Recession, rebuilding our programs after that, and now adjusting to accelerated residential growth and the increased enrollment it brings. As a business and real estate attorney who both lives and works in Delaware County, I work with people in all stations of life. I have been on the board of education for eight years now. In the last 10 years, Big Walnut has absorbed 32% enrollment growth with just one request for new operating money.
“The three things I plan to focus on this fall are Big Walnut’s 2020 Vision; Facilities, safety and security; and growth and finances.
“Beyond drilling answers into students for standardized tests, the 2020 Vision is about meeting each child where we find him or her to give each one a foundation of information and knowledge. We want this community’s students to prepare themselves for the rest of their lives to ask questions and reach their own conclusions. To use technology, and not be left behind by it.
“When I was board president, this community passed a bond issue to build a new high school, a new elementary school, and upgrade all our entrances to the same standards that we have currently at our newest buildings, Big Walnut Middle School and General Rosecrans Elementary. Then, we had to embark on a site selection process to ensure those bond dollars went as much as possible into school facilities and not offsite improvements. I want to continue our progress with efforts such as working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the same way the Granville schools have done or exploring with our construction manager at risk, Gilbane, its Junior Builder Program, both to get its staff into our classrooms, and better still, get our teachers and students onto the construction site for our two new buildings. That is hands-on, work-related 2020 learning at its best, and right in line with what our shop and FFA teachers are doing.
“Growth and finances are the biggest issues. With the 0.75% income tax and AEP substation, Big Walnut can handle growth. In the last 10 years, Big Walnut absorbed 32% enrollment growth with just one request for new operating money. Yet, we’re still outgrowing existing facilities. Delaware County is a rapidly growing county in a state experiencing much decline elsewhere, leaving us largely on our own. Under state and local policies, developers help pay for infrastructure like roads and sanitary sewers, but not necessarily any extra for schools. But as a friend tells me, people would pay to have our problems. He’s an engineer and a family man from Steubenville. For those who want no growth, he volunteers to take them to his hometown.
“It may be that we don’t resolve as much as manage this. Going back to just after the outlet mall, the Big Walnut governing team has worked to increase awareness among the county, municipal, and township officials making infrastructure, incentive and land use decisions.
For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/AndyWeckerBWBoE/.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.